When you think of revered comedy duos, some familiar names come to mind — Laurel and Hardy, Cheech and Chong, Key and Peele, Bert and Ernie. Now you can add a new pair to the list: Martin and Short — Steve Martin and Martin Short, that is. Okay, maybe the two legendary funnymen aren’t forming a permanent couple, but with their national tour of stand-up, sketch comedy, music, improv, and other antics, which they’ll bring to the S.B. Bowl on Sunday, August 14, they’ll make for a memorable pair.
Martin and Short became a comedy team by happenstance. “We started off — I think it was 2012 — when we were asked to close the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Chicago just interviewing each other,” explained Short in a recent phone call with The Santa Barbara Independent. “And we did that, and it was very funny and loose because we know each other so well and we’re very comfortable with each other. And we thought ‘Gee, that was fun,’ so we did it again. And then we thought, ‘Gee, we should add this puppet piece’ or ‘we should add this’ or ‘we should do that.’ So we ended up taking maybe the best of each other’s shows and combining them.” The end result is their variety affair, billed as An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life.
Short and Martin met in 1986 on the set of cult film ¡Three Amigos! in which the actors, along with Chevy Chase, played former film stars who are mistaken for American heroes by a small Mexican community. The two hit it off and have been close ever since. “It started in ¡Three Amigos! but it certainly continued,” Short said. “Movies are interesting: You are in this intense environment day after day, 12-14 hours a day, and then sometimes you never see those people again. And sometimes you make a conscientious decision to see those people again.”
In addition to Martin, Short’s inner circle has included some of the most impressive comedic talents of a generation. As an unknown actor in Toronto, Short made friends with other undiscovered folks such as Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, and Paul Shaffer, to name a few. It was a ripe and changing time in the world of comedy, and all of his early crew went on to national fame. “So many people have asked me about [those friends],” said Short. “They want to know what it was about that group [that made them so successful]. The only thing that I’ve pondered about was that there was a kind of comedy that hadn’t been tapped into. I mean, in 1974, there was this touring version of National Lampoon, and it was Gilda and Billy Murray and Brian Murray and Joe Flaherty and Harold Ramis and John Belushi.” So when Lorne Michaels decided to start the variety sketch show Saturday Night Live in 1975, he had a pool of cutting-edge comics to choose from for the cast.
During his career, Short has created some memorable characters, including Ed Grimley and Jiminy Glick — an innocent and a moron, respectively. “I always thought that Ed was someone who [as an adult] never became jaded by anything in his life,” Short said. “Like even [when he gets] a phone call, he says, ‘Gee, I love the phone; there’s always a sense of mystery,’ before he answers it. We might have felt that once when we were 6, but he still feels it.” As for the sharp-tongued Glick, Martin admitted that “sometimes I can’t believe the things I say when I see the edit back. [I think] ‘Oh my god.’”
Glick and other favorite Short incarnations often appear onstage during Martin and Short’s comedy evening. Attendees can also expect music and chatting and audience participation. Martin will perform with his band, The All Male Bluegrass Boys, and Short will bust out some tunes, as well. “It’s going to be music, chat, and … we will go in the audience and turn three guys into the Three Amigos … It’s all very loose and a very funny show.”
For their Santa Barbara stop, the two will be joined by a “special celebrity hip guest that I can’t announce,” confessed Short. “And it’s Steve’s birthday. I mean what more do you want?” Indeed.
Martin Short and Steve Martin will play Sunday, August 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the S.B. Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.). Call (805) 962-7411 or see sbbowl.com.